In my early 20s, I lived for a time in Copenhagen, Denmark, a land of my ancestors and a country known for fabulously long summer days filled with blue skies, beaches, beer-drinking down by the harbor and lingering candlelit dinners with friends outside, sitting cozily tucked into wool blankets against the midnight chill. But those of us who have endured the winter know there is a time when the sun first tentatively appears mid-morning and by mid-afternoon has already set, when the sky is one long sheet of gray from November until March, and the minimalism of the Danish modern look feels like part of a conspiracy to deprive one of any warmth or luxury.
One such winter, my mother arrived for a visit after a stay in India. When she'd asked if I would like anything from India, I'd responded 'color! can you bring some color back with you...it's so... cold here!' And so she arrived bringing several gorgeous silk brocade pillow cases in golden bronzes, deep wines, and earthy oranges with fabulous gold and silver threading on the detailing. I so clearly recall a deep sense of relief — into this cold barren landscape, a colorful burst of exotic warmth and abundance had arrived bringing reminders of a far off land, spice-laden cuisine and aromatic incense swirling through the dusty air upwards to the heavens.
When I first tried the Hammam Body Treatment products from Red Flower, I had a similar experience. It was winter, I had been working long hours daily on the computer, my skin was dried out and itchy from the central heating, and my creativity at a low ebb. I once again craved warmth, comfort, color and something that would stimulate my senses (as well as moisturize my skin). The Hammam line (the website informs that Hammam means 'spreader of warmth' and is the Arabic word for bathhouse), with its rich aromatic fragrances and sumptuous textures, seemed to be a tempting answer. The collection offers multiple body products designed to be used together to create a spa-like ritual of renewal. I tried three of them — the Lemon Coffee Blossom Olive Stone Body Scrub, the Cardamom Amber Oil, and the Tangerine Fig Butter Creme — but one could certainly add more (the line also includes Moroccan Mint Tea Silt Purifier, Neroli Cypress High Atlas Bath Soak, Orange Quince Steam Room Mist, and Jasmine Rose Rhassoul Clay)
Red Flower recommends you start the ritual with the Mint Tea Purifier, but I just used my own body wash and then reached for the Lemon Coffee Blossom Olive Stone Body Scrub. This concoction is an inky brown-black blend that looks like yesterday morning's coffee grinds held in an oil base. It smells of deep rich earthy coffee with almost chocolaty undertones, and a hint of almond in the background. Combine that with a bright lemon lift, tempered by a bit of sweet orange, and you will have the general idea. If you massage thoroughly, it does a marvelous job of exfoliating the skin. (Home spa tip: turn off all the cold water and let the shower steam up while you use this product — it will open your pores and relax your body so you will be ready for a good nap afterwards) The product is not nearly as oily as many of the sugar or sea salt scrubs I have tried, but still manages to leave skin very soft and vaguely coffee scented, with a slight sheen.
I found the Cardamom Amber Oil best applied while the skin was still damp from the shower and able to absorb it somewhat better. Highly aromatic, it is rich and full of pure notes — most easily discerned were a rather bold cardamom, subtle and beautiful rose, voluptuous jasmine, uplifting orange, tangy black pepper, and the rounded warmth of bergamot. It is both spicy and floral, but not floral in the sense of 'pretty' so much as 'devotional'. I think of jasmine garlands and rose petals on the temple floor before I think of bouquets. My skin was left feeling pampered and soft, and not terribly oily.
I completed my home spa experience with the Tangerine Fig Butter Creme. Following the oil with the creme was a bit like gilding the lily, but it felt wonderful! The creme is a sumptuous blend that deeply moisturizes and brings the ritual to a luxurious but refreshing close. The vetiver is quite prominent, with an unexpected earthiness enhanced by oakmoss, again uplifted by citrus blends — mostly clementine and tangerine — with jasmine and the olive oil providing a subtle bridge between the citrus and earthy notes and giving a reasonable depth to the scent that matches its creamy consistency (a little goes a long way).
I can see why these products are touted as having near-therapeutic effects. In fact, they claim that if you use the entire set for a period of seven days, the detox effect on the body is equivalent to having fasted for three days. I confess to not having tried this, but I can vouch for an increased feeling of relaxation, centeredness and bodily well-being after setting aside even one hour to enjoy them (especially when followed by a cat nap!). My skin felt smooth as silk and was warmed and deeply scented. Be warned though, these products are not cheap. Given that you can use them a fair number of times, it is still less expensive than going to an actual spa.
Red Flower Lemon Coffee Blossom Olive Stone Scrub is $62 for 14.5 oz; the Cardamom Amber Oil, $44 for 2.4 oz; the Tangerine Fig Butter Creme, $52 for 5.8 oz. The line is available at beautyhabit, luckyscent, or redflower. Also available: a Hammam travel set ($56) or the entire Hammam Collection ($288).